Field of Science

Weed of the week - Indian (mock) strawberry

Since TPP has no shortage of weeds, the weed of the week shall continue.  This one also generates a lot of queries from people and sometimes calls from the poison control center.  The Indian or mock or false strawberry is a terrible lawn weed, although it is even worse in a strawberry patch.  This is Duchesnea indica (due-kez-knee-ah), indeed a member of the rose family.  It's come up before on this blog.  The physical similarity to the standard strawberry of commerce is quite striking especially it strewing (another story there) habit of spreading by runners (stolons) and plantlets. The leaves are trifoliate and have very similar toothed margins (but not quite the same).  The flower has usually has 5 yellow petals (oops the flower photographed has 6) instead of white or pinkish petals, and they are subtended by a whorl of 3-lobed bracts (opposite the petals) below the 5 sepals (alternate with the petals).  The red strawberry like fruits generate the poisonous queries. It isn't toxic, but the fruit also has no taste.  The dead giveaway though are the achenes (the true fruits); they are red in Indian strawberry; and yellow/tan/brown in true strawberry.
The plant has the potential to be quite invasive especially in lawns but fortunately it is quite susceptible to standard lawn weed herbicides.  Although TPP doesn't like spraying, or have a great dislike of lawn weeds, patches can be easily spot treated before becoming a big problem.  It can be weeded by hand with some difficulty because of the runners and plantlets. Believe it or else, but this plant was human dispersed from its SE Asian place of origin for ornamental purposes.  This is on TPP's never plant this plant list, but you do sometimes find it for sale.

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